Tuesday, 18 June 2013
Fixtures Eve: Does day 1 set the tone for what lies ahead?
It's that time again. With a lack of an international football tournament, fans only have the announcement of the coming season’s fixtures to look forward to. On the eve of their announcement, Stuart Radnedge talks about how the coming season could develop.
With the year ending in an odd number, I - like every other football fan in this far reaching world - was preparing for a football-free summer holiday. The respite was probably a good thing seeing as a number of the City fans on Twitter, including myself, have been preparing weddings either this year or next… (congratulations to all who fall in this category).
But as soon as the season finished, and I returned to the country from honeymoon and a work trip to South Africa, I found myself counting down the days for the release of the 2013/14 fixtures. Just days before, the League Cup first round draw would be announced and I was praying for the opportunity of joyous journey planning. Living in Cornwall results in every home match at the hallowed Ashton Gate feeling more like an away trip – but unperturbed I made a hand-on-heart promise that this coming season, with the wedding out the way, I would get to more football – both home and away.
But at the end of last season my fantasy final positioning transformed into a nightmare. City relegated, Yeovil (now the best team in the South West) promoted along with Bournemouth, and Portsmouth relegated. My hopes of having some ‘local’ fixtures were dashed.
Nevertheless, plans have been made to do Brentford away this year, and I – like many others – are hoping for a big first fixture at home to set a standard with the right result.
But then the Capital One Cup draw was made and we’ll be playing Gillingham again in the first round – this time away. And last season suddenly washed over me. I attended the equivalent match at Ashton Gate last season and was gutted with what I saw, no more so than when returning to my just purchased home to discover a baby Robin had flown what I can only guess was full-pelt into my conservatory and had sadly killed itself (maybe this was an omen for what was to come).
This reflection on the season before made me ask myself, what would be a dream announcement in the shape of fixtures? And this got me thinking… would a big match be perfect start? A big win? Or both?
Playing a 'big' club at home would mean a larger crowd, but would we win? Would we rather play one of the newly promoted sides? If last season’s Capital One cup exit proved anything – there’s no such thing as a banker for a win.
Does a team, relegated into League One, have an advantage over a team formerly playing in League Two? If the first has been relegated and the latter promoted the argument could be they both were competing at the wrong standard in the league!
I’d rather have the first game at home, as previously stated, but against the likes of Tranmere, Sheffield United or Crawley. Teams at the top end of the table last year that didn’t quite make it. I’m not too sure why, probably because it’s a benchmark setter - and that’s something I think the club needs from the off - a clear indication of the standard of football we need to play this season. It’s something I think most would agree that we were unable to achieve last year, a consistent level of performance that puts points on the board. With the departure of some of the squad from last season, and with further new arrivals to be secured, amongst transfer turmoil before the start of the new season, the new look City will need to be up for the challenge ahead.
New faces will need time to settle in, hence what pre-season games are for, games will provide the gaffer the time to pick a solid starting line up – something City fans hope to see on a regular basis when compared with last year!
With the right start, there’s no reason why we can’t be in the top eight from the off and stay there. I’d obviously be content with a top two finish, a statement of bouncebackability. Right the wrongs of last year and all that.
But does it all depend on one game? Is the first result pivotal to kick-start, or the demise of, a season long campaign?
No – but it’s just be nice to get three points on the board on the opening day! A luxury City fans haven’t enjoyed in a while!
The Exiled Robin
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